What is Cervical Fluid and Why Does it Matter?
You probably didn't learn very much about your cervical fluid growing up. You may even be living with the fear that your cervical fluid is gross or abnormal. That it's some sort of disgusting discharge that needs to be remedied. Rest assured, that is not the case.
Your cervical fluid is a natural and functional part of your monthly cycle and plays a vital role in fertility.
I know it's not really something to be talked about in polite conversation. I get it. Maybe this whole topic is making you a little squirmy. That's okay.
But we're friends and there's no such thing as TMI between friends.
So allow me to introduce you to the amazingness that is your cervical fluid.
There's a party in your pants and cervical fluid is the bouncer.
Maybe you've noticed that throughout your cycle your cervical fluid changes. During your period you probably won't notice any cervical fluid, because, well, there's a lot going on down there.
During the rest of your cycle, if you start to pay attention, which I highly recommend you do, you will notice that your cervical fluid will range from not very noticeable (aka 'dry'), to sticky, to creamy and whitish, to clear and stretchy, back to dry.
These different consistencies and colors represent the four types of cervical fluid. All uniquely and miraculously designed to play an important function in your uterine wellbeing.
After your period the first type of cervical fluid you experience is called G-Type fluid. Except that you won't actually experience it very directly because this type of fluid is literally the gate keeper. This type of fluid is produced in the lower end of your cervix, or at the door to the very exclusive Womb Room where it's invite only.
G-Type fluid forms an impenetrable barrier between your uterus and your vagina. No one's on the list. No one's getting in. The Womb Room is closed for business. Capiche?
G-type fluid is also produced after ovulation, signaled by the rise in progesterone during your luteal phase, and throughout pregnancy to become the infamous mucus plug everyone is always so curious about as your due date comes and goes (or maybe that's just me?).
It's a good idea to keep the Womb Room sealed and safe after ovulation, and especially so if you are trying to make it a safe place for a baby to take up residence. Having a burly bouncer at the doors is important for keeping the riffraff out.
Bacteria, viruses, yeasts, and fungi are not something you want traveling up into your delicate lady regions (although maybe a Fun Guy is ok. Wink, wink). In addition to being a physical blockade, your G-type fluid also contains anti-microbial substances and immune cells to further put the smack down on foreign invaders. Isn't your body amazing?!
As you move towards the middle of your cycle there’s a lot going on. Your brain’s sending down Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) to your ovaries to (surprise!) stimulate your follicles to grow and mature an egg. Your ovary and the developing follicle start producing Estrogen in response to the FSH and this causes your cervical fluid production to shift to a more welcoming and party friendly door (wo)man.
Meet L-type fluid. L-type fluid is more liquidy than G-type so you will start to notice a little more moisture in your britches and when you use the bathroom. L-type fluid is more like a party planner than a bouncer. L-type fluid comes around to get the venue ready and make sure the Womb Room is ready for the main event (ovulation).
L-type fluid neutralizes the acidic environment of your vagina. Not to be rude, but your vagina is actually a pretty inhospitable place. And for good reason. It's one of the only direct routes to the inside of your body and you want to keep most things out of there.
The low pH of your vaginal canal creates a chemical death trap for viruses, bacteria, and especially sperm (sorry guys). Your normal, non-fertile, acidic vagina will kill sperm dead in about 30 minutes. Pretty impressive, eh?
L-type fluid can be creamy or lotion-like and white or clear. It's liquidy but still a little thick. This thickness allows it to set up the structural foundation, or scaffolding, that will come into play when the Womb Room opens for business and starts ushering the guests of honor - sperm - into the VIP area - your fallopian tubes.
A few days after the L-type fluid starts being produced, and as estrogen levels from your maturing egg continue to rise, your cervix starts making the S-type fluid. S-type fluid is like the Promotions Team, its job is to get the crowd into the Womb Room and take extra special care of the VIPs. S-type fluid feels more wet and slippery and has a stretchy quality to it. All excellent qualities if you're throwing a party in your pants.
L-type fluid is still doing it's thing - making sure the ambience is right and not too acidic - but has the new added task of weeding out the undesirables. Two headed sperm, sperm swimming in circles, sperm with any mechanical or formational defects, they all get caught in the sticky L-type fluid so only the best of the best make it to the VIP area.
At the same time, the S-type fluid begins to form runways within the L-type fluid. Like velvet ropes leading the way through the masses, these runways literally usher the healthiest sperm up into the Womb Room, hands them a nourishing beverage that can sustain them for up to five days, and sends them towards your fallopian tubes where your mature egg is about to drop.
Like that big mirror ball in Central Park on New Year's Eve. 5....4....3....2....1....Hooray! The crowd goes wild!
But get this, not all the healthy VIP sperm get ushered right up to the drop point. Because, well in the Womb Room the ball doesn't drop according to some clock. It drops in response to specific hormone levels and those are hard to measure in real time.
And sex isn't just about making babies, so there's a good change you're doing it just for fun and not for any specific reproductive goals. (If you hang with me to the end I promise I'll explain how to use this info whether you are trying to get pregnant or trying to not get pregnant, it's useful either way).
So instead, some sperm are ushered into little side rooms in the walls of your cervix where they can hangout in some nourishing S-type fluid and chill until ovulation occurs.
When ovulation does occur, or shortly after, the production of the last type of cervical fluid increases. P-type fluid is the type of fluid that is responsible for the slippery, wet feeling you get right at ovulation.
In metaphorical terms P-type fluid is that one party-goer who doesn't want the night to end. She's trying to get everyone to have another drink and get out there on the dance floor to shake their groove thangs.
P-type fluid thins out the S- and L- type fluids even further so that the sperm that were tucked away in the chill out rooms can find their way back out and up to a fallopian tube to take a chance on fertilization that the early birds might have missed.
But like all great nights, the party does eventually end. After ovulation, whether or not fertilization has occurred, there is no other chance for baby-making until the cycle begins again. The guests are asked to leave, the party planner and promotions team goes home, and the G-type fluid steps in to close and lock the doors until the next go 'round.
Hopefully, you can now appreciate that your cervical fluid is definitely not abnormal or something that needs to eliminated. It's actually something that should be nurtured and encouraged. Especially if you are trying to get pregnant.
If you aren't experiencing these changes in your cervical fluid it can mean that you’re having an issue with your estrogen or progesterone levels. If you experience yellow, green, or smelly discharge, or painful or itchy sensations it may be a sign that you have an infection and should see your health practitioner asap.
Paying attention to and charting your cervical fluid is one of the key methods you can use to manage your fertility - whether you’re trying to conceive or trying to avoid pregnancy.
If you’re trying to conceive, you can use the presence of slippery, wet, stretchy cervical fluid as a sign that ovulation is going to happen soon. Because the cervical fluid will keep sperm alive for up to five days, this gives you bigger window before ovulation than afterwards because the egg itself will only stay alive for about 24 hours.
If you are trying to avoid pregnancy, the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM), can be 99.6% effective. However, there is more to it than just checking out your cervical fluid and I highly suggest that you work with a teacher before relying on FAM as your only method of birth control. If you're interested in learning more, check out the Fertility Friday Podcast. She has loads of great info.
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